NOW LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO DEL CARTER:
Lt. Franklin Delano (Del) Carter is a handsome, well educated Chicago homicide dick who loves Jessica Farrell and mellow sexy jazz. If there’s a saxophone riff in the music somewhere you can bet Del’s gonna’ love it.
Here’s an exchange between Del and his fiancée, Jess:
“What do you want for Christmas? You’re always so hard to buy for,” she said.
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“Just keep me in good sax.”
“Your birthday?” It was right after the holidays.
“Drown me in more good sax.” He looked at her and winked. “See, I’m easy. A whore for sax.”
January Moon has several protagonists which is usually not done… but there are many things about January Moon that defy the classic rules of fiction. Why? Well, probably because it’s my damn book and that’s how I wrote it. J So, if you’re a purest for formulaic fiction, well, then it’s best you move on. But if you’re not – well, then please stay; I think if you learn more about January Moon and its extraordinary characters (and totally unique story) you’re going to really love this book.
If there are two truly central characters in January Moon they are Del Carter and Fred Wiley -- and these two are very opposite men.
Del is a young (thirtyish) homicide dick in Chicago who has experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks. Wiley is an older, more seasoned, homicide investigator with the Illinois State Police; he’s a ’Nam era vet with a gnarly-snarky attitude long on cynicism and full of shrewd. Wiley plays in stark counterpoint to the more cerebral and polished Del.
Del is a complex man; he’s layered with more subtle nuances than the finest wine while Wiley’s a shot & beer kind of guy. Del gets in your head; Wiley gets in your face.
Cops and people who know cops tell me that I’ve nailed these guys, including their sidekicks Eggs and Tooch and Wiley’s dear friend Mayfield. I’ve known a lot of cops in my life but only one is truly represented in January Moon: Lt. Dennis Banahan, a real life Chicago homicide detective, now retired.
Denny is part Del and part Wiley -- some by pure accident and some by design.
Here’s the deal: I was already well into the story when I met Denny Banahan more or less by accident. He was already retired and for several weeks I had no idea that he was a cop. We were patched together by a mutual friend because of our dogs and that’s a story that’s repeated here on this blog under the tab titled “Trooper, Shadow and Wolf” – so for background about Denny and our relationship, please go there. However, after I learned more about Denny’s career (and read his wonderful book, “Threshold of Pain”) I knew I had found a way to describe Del Carter’s career on a succinct and interesting way. Therefore, I boldly snatched Denny’s creds and after some massaging I created Del Carter’s resume.
Denny told me later, “You know, you might have given Del some of my credentials but you definitely gave Wiley my personality.”
Interestingly enough, that’s the accidental part. It was only toward the very end of the story that I actually began to know Denny Banahan very well but by that time Fred Wiley was fully created and the story was over.
This is probably explainable because I’m Fred Wiley’s generation (and of course Denny’s) and so to some extent – and probably quite a large one – I’ve known guys like Fred Wiley (and Denny) all my life.
Next week I’ll share more about Fred Wiley and the role he plays in January Moon but today I want to introduce you to Del and the best way to do that is to let you read the Chapter that introduces Del to the reader.
January Moon opens with a Prologue that begins at a truck stop in Urbana, Illinois. In the Prologue the reader meets Mack Carter, Del’s truck driver dad, as well as Del’s mom, Marge. After Mack impulsively rescues a young runaway from the clutches of three predators, something goes terribly, terribly wrong….
Del Carter was flat on his back, one arm under his head and the other under Jess. He was deep in thought, still unaware his dad was on I-57 with a dead girl in his truck.
He looked at the clock and winced; he hadn’t caught a wink all night. In a few hours he was expected to appear at a breakfast meeting with the Mayor of Chicago and some hotshots with the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.
This shit with the Mayor, he thought, is getting old. Real old, real fast.
Jess was curled up beside him, one arm arched gracefully over his bare chest. He kissed the top of her head; her hair smelled like lavender. With Jess at his side nothing else really mattered. Screw the job, the Mayor, and even the blizzard slamming into Chicago.
All things have their season, he thought, and I just need to figure how to hurry out of this miserable one so that we can begin another.
Give me, kind Heaven, a private station, a mind serene for contemplation; title and profit I resign; the post of honor shall be mine…
Where the hell does this shit come from? It amazed him what his mind retained.
He ran his fingers through Jess’s soft hair. If anyone told him a year earlier he’d fall in love with any woman at first sight he would have said they were crazy. Love at first sight? No way. But Jess Farrell had proven him wrong.
She blew him away the minute he saw her and an hour later he knew she was The One. It just took a little bit of time for Jess to see it too. She was suspicious and asked how he knew it was true love.
“When I see something here,” he pointed to his heart, “and here,” he pointed to his eyes, “and also here too,” he pointed to his brain, “then I know it’s true.”
“We’ll see,” she said.
Then one day Jess saw it as clearly as Del and that’s when her fears surfaced and in a panic she slammed the door to her heart and tried to run away.
“Running away,” he said after he chased her down and made her listen, “is not an option.”
“It’s always an option.”
“I don’t have to be a cop.”
“Of course you do. Cops don’t choose to be cops, not like dentists and teachers and others. Cops are born cops.”
“That, coming from a woman as brilliant as you, is preposterous.”
“I come from a police family,” she retorted. “I know. It’s in the blood.”
“So, why are you a history professor and not a police officer?”
“Because every now and then one of us escapes…”
No doubt about it, the woman he loved could be a wee bit daft.
“Hmmm…,” she purred and snuggled closer, “you awake?” Her body was warm and soft and always so desirable.
“How come?” She raised her head and glanced at the clock. It was 4:00 AM. “You OK?”
“Never better. Go back to sleep.”
“So, why are you awake?”
“Like what? Tell me.” She played with one of his nipples and he groaned with pleasure.
“Tell you what?”
“What you were thinking. Tell me.”
“You want me to tell you again, for the millionth time, how I knew the minute I laid eyes on you that you were the one, is that it?”
“Yep. I like that story. It’s my favorite bedtime story,” she laughed softly and snuggled closer.
“Professor Jessica Farrell, you’re spoiled rotten, you know that?” It was fine with him; he wanted to spoil the hell out of her.
“Yep. Works for me. So, tell me.”
“OK, I was thinking about the day I first laid eyes on you. You were walking Wolf. July 1st, 1300 hours. Greenleaf Beach.”
“And you stalked me,” she teased.
“Yes, and with great skill I might add.”
“Wolf knew you were behind us. He was watching you.”
“Yeah, and I kept my eyes on him too. He’s a very intimidating animal.”
“But it was love at first sight, right?”
“True. I never saw a more beautiful dog.”
“Not funny.” She pulled a hair out of his chest.
“Ouch! Damnit! That hurt!”
“Be serious,” she chided. “You loved me at first sight, right?”
“Absolutely. But then you told me to go to hell, remember?”
“I did not!” she rose up indignantly.
“Shhh… yes you did. You were still in love with that other guy, Jerry Lewis.” He knew his name but got a kick out of refusing to say it.
“Jerry Levinson,” she said reproachfully, “and I wasn’t in love with him.”
“You’re jealous, aren’t you?” She was pleased.
“Of course. I’ll kill anyone who even looks at you.”
Del gently stroked her hair as she lowered her head onto his chest.
Jess reached up and lovingly stroked his stubble; she traced the outline of his handsome features, starting with his brows and eyes and lightly brushing over his strong cheek bones. Her small, feather light fingers hovered around his nose and danced across his lips. He opened his mouth slightly and she played with his perfect white teeth and teasing tongue and then her fingers moved along, toying with the deeply embedded cleft in his dramatic chin and chiseled jaw line.
Her touch was hypnotic and he soaked up the love. Del’s large, powerful hand cupped hers. He kissed it tenderly and then gently nibbled and sucked her delicate fingers.
“I lied,” he whispered.
“What?” She raised her head and pulled her hand away but he pulled it back and kissed it again.
“Yeah, I lied. I didn’t tell you everything I was thinking.”
“Should I be alarmed?”
He lowered his arm and held her tightly. “No, babe. Not at all.”
“So then tell me the truth.” She shifted herself around so that she faced him and rested her chin on his chest.
“I was thinking about how you hate me being a cop and I really meant it when I said I’d probably be happier doing something else.”
“But you love what you do.”
“Not any more. Something’s changed.”
Jess studied him. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“But hey, sweetheart, it’s turned out you’re very, very good at what you do. The whole city thinks you’re a hero now. The Mayor loves you.”
“I only want to be your hero; I only want you to love me. Screw everyone else.”
“That’s sweet, thank you.”
She lowered her head back onto his chest. “Whatever you want to do, honey, it’s OK with me.”
In a few minutes her breathing changed and Del knew she’d fallen back asleep. Unfortunately, as long as his mind was on hyperdrive he couldn’t sleep.
Images of the career he wanted to abandon played on continuous loop: graduation from the Police Academy, the early years in Narcotics, being detailed to the U.S. Department of Justice’s DEA Task Force, promotion to sergeant, reassignment back to Narcotics as a Supervisor, then lieutenant rank before thirty. Then the chance to transfer to Violent Crimes, something he suspected he’d be damn good at, something proven right.
A helluva career, no regrets, and then all of a sudden it unraveled. What the hell happened?
It was a warm spring day when he was picked by the Mayor and Superintendent of Police, Jim Reardon, to head a Special Task Force to solve a string of murders terrorizing the city. The media nicknamed the murderer the United Nations Killer because his victims were foreigners and tourists.
It took the task force eleven months to catch the United Nations Killer and when they did Del became an instant celebrity. Handsome, well educated, and articulate, the Chicago media dubbed him the city’s “Renaissance Man.”
Mayor Carney knew a public relations goldmine when he saw it and quickly jumped on the bandwagon, declaring Lt. F. Delano Carter the perfect example of a modern police professional. Carney made him the cornerstone of a massive public relations campaign to restore Chicago’s image, an image trashed by the serial killer, an overall increase in crime, and a decade-long series of police scandals and federal investigations.
The Renaissance Man campaign was a huge embarrassment to Del. He detested the name and clenched his teeth just thinking about it. He and Jess knew there wasn’t any outpouring of civic adoration when her father and his partner took bullets that crippled and killed twenty years earlier. Frank Farrell was put into a wheelchair and his partner, Jimmy Pappas, was put into the ground.
Del was also acutely aware of the hundreds of other cops and firemen wounded or killed in the line of duty and he certainly knew he didn’t apprehend the United Nations Killer by himself.
“I’m not the Lone Ranger,” he said, stressing there were hundreds of other cops who worked hard, maybe even harder, to apprehend the bastard.
Del told Carney and Reardon, “No way, get some other patsy,” but they made it perfectly clear that wasn’t an option: as long as Del was a Chicago cop they owned his handsome ass.
Del said it was the publicity, the idiotic Renaissance Man campaign bullshit, that really got to him, turned his stomach and made him want out, but the truth was deeper, darker, and more dreadful.
It came in the name of Dale Bradley Mommsen. Mommsen was a cancer that ate Del’s soul. Before Mommsen, Del only dealt with the ordinary scumbags who routinely keep cops busy in Narcotics and Violent Crimes; scum killing scum and there was a certain dark justice to it. Sure, there was collateral damage but shit happens.
But nothing Del had ever seen in ordinary police work prepared him for Mommsen. Del remembered – in graphic detail – every one of Mommsen’s crime scenes and it didn’t matter if Del’s eyes were open or closed, if he was awake or asleep, Mommsen lived in Del’s head, devoured his sense of worth, and scared him shitless.
Mommsen owned Del’s head more than Carney and Reardon owned his ass.
I should have taken the shot, he thought.
Should have taken the fucking shot.
Instead, Del operated by the book, and now Dale Bradley Mommsen was housed in Tamms, the state’s notorious closed maximum security prison.
Del knew it was only a matter of time. No prison could hold the man.
I should have taken the shot.
“OK, so if you don’t want to be a Chicago cop, what do you want to be?”
It was typical of Jess that she could fall asleep and wake up ready to continue her last conversation as if it never ended.
“I don’t know. Maybe I could become an alpaca farmer.”
“Or is that rancher? Alpaca rancher?”
“You’re crazy,” she said with mock indignation.
“Shhh….” He laughed and gently pushed her head back onto his chest.
She played with his chest hair and nibbled his nipples and he loved it. She emitted a sultry tigress growl and began to caress the length of his torso, further and further downward. Her touch was erotic as hell.
“God, that feels wonderful.”
Del closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He needed her love as well as the sex. You can heal me, he thought. Definitely, woman, you can heal me.
His respiration and heart rate changed and his abdomen jumped reflexively as her fingers brushed over him. Jess raised herself on top of him and he nibbled her lips and teased her with his tongue. He kissed her neck and licked a small heart-shaped mole under her chin. She teased him with her breasts and he sucked as she moaned with pleasure. They were immediately ready for each other.
“I love morning sex,” he whispered as his tongue danced in her ear and sent shivers down her spine.
Her voice was husky now. “Beats the hell out of Cheerios,” she whispered.
Del was adjusting her lovely rump on top of his pulsing groin when the room exploded with the terrifying roar of hovering helicopters and the heart pounding music of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
“Jesus H!” Del yelled as Jess cried “Good God!” and rolled off him.
It took a second for them to realize the hellacious noise came from Del’s cell phone and not an Air Cav assault coming through the roof. The phone vibrated across the nightstand and crashed to the floor. Wolf tore into the bedroom barking ferociously; his raised fur formed a one inch ridge that went from the scruff of his neck to his tail. They usually called it “Wolf’s Mohawk.”
“What the shit!” Del groped frantically to retrieve the phone as it proceeded to disappear under the bed. Wolf lunged to retrieve it but Jess held him back; he would have eaten it.
“Goddamnit!” Del’s mind flashed back to a memory of his partner Santucci screwing with the phone. Tooch loved to screw with anything electronic, especially if it belonged to Del. Del swore to God he was going to seriously screw with something belonging to Tooch, like maybe his goddamn shiny new car.
Del moved the bed and grabbed the phone.
“Good Jesus, I’m gonna’ kill that bast…”
He froze in midsentence when he saw the caller’s phone number. Calls that come in the middle of the night are never good, and that’s especially true when they come from parents.
“Yeah, talk to me! What’s wrong?”
Marge was trying hard to fight hysteria and losing the battle.
“Ma! Slow down, slow down. I can’t understand a damn thing you’re saying.”
Marge started over but Del still didn’t understand her.
“Ma, listen to me: honest to God, you gotta’ slow down. Take a deep breath.”
At first Del thought his mother said his dad died, found in his truck on I-57. Naturally, he was unbelievably relieved to learn he’d misunderstood.
OK, so it obviously isn’t cool that someone else died in the old man’s truck, but it’s a damn sight better than dad himself, right?
“Ma, again, I’m telling you, you gotta’ take a deep breath and slow down. You’re confusing the living hell out of me.”
Del walked his naked butt into the kitchen, picked up a red plastic beverage carafe, and poured cold coffee into a black mug that ominously warned “Life’s a Bitch, Then You Die.” Jess, wearing her favorite schlumpy robe, followed. Del put the mug in the microwave and Jess poured herself a glass of orange juice. Concern marred her beautiful face.
“OK, Ma, let’s start from the beginning. Does Dad know this guy, the guy who died?”
Jess looked shocked and mouthed, “someone died?”
Del nodded “yes.” He cradled the phone under his chin and whispered, “Yeah, and in my dad’s truck, can you believe it?”
Marge kept calling the dead person a “hitchhiker” which Del thought odd because his father never picked up strangers.
“Where did he pick this guy up?”
Marge wasn’t sure but corrected him. “Not a guy, Del, I said a girl.”
“That’s right, your father said she’s definitely a young girl. Maybe twelve, thirteen…”
“A twelve or thirteen year old girl?” Holy shit. “Is that what you said?”
His mother said yes: that was exactly what she said.
How the hell did dad end up with a dead girl in his truck? A dead minor girl in his truck?
Marge explained the state police were holding Mack in Mattson and within minutes Del was dressed and flying out the door.
“Jess, I’ll call you as soon as I can, I promise. Keep your cell phone on, OK?” He kissed her quickly and was gone.
The coffee mug stayed in the microwave.
Del Carter might have been listening to some great sax on his way to Matteson… here’s what he and I have been listening to this morning…. some mellow alto sax playing Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are. Enjoy!